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82                                       VERDICT   OX X
have balls of paper thrown at them. Then they may condescend
to flop over to the branches of the nearest coconut tree and
squawk from there/
I am staying with some charming Parsees, friends of A------, who
have kindly taken pity on me5 though if they had known how long
all tliis was going to last, with the Press and the rumours and the
reporters and the nurses, they might well have thought twice
before issuing the invitation.
As the stretcher was carried into the flat I noticed something
very pleasing and curious. On each side of the doorway there were
little patterns of flowers, traced in chalk on the polished floor. At
first sight you would say that somebody had dropped a wreath
of daisies. I asked what they were for. They said that this was
a Parsee custom of great antiquity. In the old days they used to
scatter the chalk, which is faintly antiseptic, at the entrance to
their dwellings, partly for hygienic purposes and partly to dis-
courage evil spirits.
Every day the chalk is dusted up, and the design is changed.-
It is made by pouring the chalk into delicately perforated tins;
you tap the tin on the floor, and there you are ! There seems to be
an endless variety of designs; one day it will be a fish, the next
day a feather, or a fruit.  One of the prettiest is a group of magic
letters, which A-----says is a sort of Persian incantation to help
sick persons.  The Ayah is going to try this one every day, to sec
if it does any good.
The monsoon has begun. Pure Lyceum melodrama. If
Somerset Maugham had been sitting in the stalls watching a
rehearsal of Rain and if the producer had turned on the tap so
violently and put so much indigo in the lights he would have
stopped the rehearsal and told the producer—quite rightly—that
such extravagances would make people laugh.
The monsoon is ham; there is really no other word for it. The
clouds pile up like the clouds in ancient Punch cartoons when
Britannia is standing alone on a storm-lashed rock waving a